Jetblack will give members access to personal shoppers who will offer recommendations when a person texts, for example, "I need a gift for my 10-year-old daughter's birthday party." The shopper can then choose from the photos of items sent to them via text. From there, an order can be placed — again, over text message.
A membership includes white-glove delivery as soon as the same day or next day, complimentary gift wrapping and easy returns. To start, it won't be able to handle fresh groceries, Fleiss said. Jetblack is also working with third-party delivery services such as Deliv and Uber to bulk up its supply chain.
"Our eCommerce strategy has been focused on three elements: nailing the fundamentals, leveraging our unique strengths to play offense and innovating for the future," Marc Lore, Walmart's head of e-commerce, said in a statement about Jetblack. "Powered by conversational commerce, the future of retail will bring convenience and high-touch personalization to the forefront for consumers everywhere."
The rollout of Jetblack marks another move by Walmart to reach younger and more urban customers. It acquired Jet.com in 2016 and has since added other brands, such as Bonobos and ModCloth, to its portfolio. One of the retailer's top goals today is to grow its online business to compete with that of Amazon.
In the most recent quarter, Walmart's online sales soared more than 30 percent following a somewhat disappointing holiday season, where e-commerce growth waned more than a year after its acquisition of Jet.com. Walmart has said it anticipates meeting or exceeding sales growth of 40 percent in fiscal 2019.
The company recently rolled out a redesigned website, which has more local touches and more subtle Walmart branding. It has new landing pages for home and fashion. Hudson's Bay-owned Lord & Taylor is also being integrated into the new site.
Other projects being run under Walmart's Store No. 8 incubator include Project Kepler, a start-up working to build cashier-less stores similar to Amazon Go, and a virtual reality initiative.
"Thousands of people are on our waitlist [for Jetblack]," Fleiss said. "We want to save people time."